Those of you who have been to the mission know what I am talking about when I refer to 'the hill'. It's the road that starts at the bottom of the mountain and leads up past the church, school, office, cafeteria, warehouse, and eventually the guesthouse (where my apartment is located). The hill is what everyone who has ever visited the mission has trekked. It's rocky, long, and often steep, but over the time I've been at the mission, it's become kind of like a friend to me.
A few times a week I strap on my 'Keens' (hiking shoes) and go a few laps around the mission.... It's kind of like doing a workout on an incline treadmill, just add in a bunch of random-sized rocks and dust... it definitely gets your heart rate up! Because I spend my working hours indoors teaching in the classroom, it's often one of the highlights of my day to get out in the open air and bright sunshine where it's just me and the mountains. It's a beautiful place to be. At some points in the journey I stop at different lookouts and the sights take my breath away. The sun reflecting off the water, the grey clouds that hover over the tops of the highest mountain peaks, and especially standing at one of the highest points of the mission and overlooking the land below for miles and miles.
The other day I was walking along and right up ahead a horse and her colt trotted across the path in front of me. A few moments later a little boy, probably not much older than 12 came out of the brush along the side of the road with a stick in his hand. He was wearing a dirty oversized t-shirt, shorts, and had no shoes. I made the connection quite quickly that he was tending to the horses - either he was working for his father or another farmer - but when he saw me walking towards him, he gave me a big smile and fell in stride with my pace. He asked me my name and we chatted a bit until he scurried off to retrieve his horses. I was encouraged by his thoughtfulness to take time to talk to me, and also impressed by the way he offered such kindness to me even though I was a complete stranger.
Another memorable hill story happened after dark a few weeks ago. I don't usually intend to walk the hill alone at night, since I do have a slight fear of darkness, but it was on a Friday evening and I was at the Hope House for movie night. I usually catch a ride with Rachel or the van der Marks when the movie ends, but for some reason which I can't remember now, I was venturing up alone. I had my flashlight and was set to walk up with my bright beam leading the way, yet as I ventured away from the lights of the Hope House I looked up into the night sky and was in complete awe at what was above me. It is one of those moments when everything simply stops. The sky was the deepest of blues, and the millions of bright white stars literally sparkled. As I stood in the middle of the open field outside the Hope House and looked up into the sky, I felt so small. The vastness of everything around me was overwhelming, and yet I felt the Lord pull me in and whisper His love into my heart. It's something I can't really describe in words, but I think we've all had those moments.... Times when God's glory is so unfathomable and we feel so unworthy to be known by Him... and yet He gives us a peace to rest in His arms. It's a moment that will be forever engrained in my mind.
But the neat part about that night, was that there was a full moon was shining down, creating a dimly lit world of blue. Excitedly, I slipped my flashlight back into my pocket and began walking with the moon lighting my path. I don't know if you've ever had an opportunity to use the moon as a guide, but you should really try it sometime if you haven't. The moon's light transformed the trail into a greyish-blue colour and the large trees cast down black shadows that swayed in the breeze along the way. As I made my way back home, I began to realize how much of an adventure life Haiti can be... There I was in the darkness using just the moon as a light and hiking through the mountains in the middle of a Caribbean island... It was really awesome!
It's just neat how the littlest things can make such a difference sometimes. Like the moon lighting my way home, or the bright smile of a little farmer boy following his horses, or the beauty of sunshine and mountains in such a barren land. I feel like Haiti is changing me with the little things. Back at home last year, it was rare that I had time to notice the little things. Life seemed to have taken a grip on me and I struggled to find chances to really breathe and appreciate the everyday miracles. I feel like I've captured a part of that again, which has been sparked through my walks on the hill. It can be seen as such a pain to have to climb, but I admit that I actually look forward to it. It gives me a chance to breathe. It gives me a chance to open my eyes and be aware of the beauty that surrounds me. And as a result, it gives me no choice but to be utterly amazed at the wonder of my Father's creation.
Maybe today I'll go for another walk. There is a good chance that somewhere along the way someone will drive by and offer me a lift, but I will politely refuse. Even though the hill leaves me dirty and in a crazy sweat, it's worth it for the majesty of His creation. It captures my heart.